From Via Media: ‘Bambi Meets Godzilla In The Middle-East’

Full post here.

‘The end of history, which AI founder Francis Fukuyama used to describe the historical implications of the Cold War, is to American political philosophy what the Second Coming is to Christians. In the end, almost all Americans devoutly believe, the liberal, market principles on which our country is built will triumph around the world’

and:

‘Meanwhile the President’s most ardent critics, both on the right and the left, believe that his biggest problem is that he isn’t exhibiting sufficient faith in the national credo. Since we know that liberal democracy is triumphing everywhere, if it isn’t working in Egypt it must be the President’s fault. There must have been some policy path, there must still be some policy path, by which the President can bring Egypt into the Promised Land.’

Worth reading.

It’s not a bad summation of the national credo.

I suspect Obama’s civil-rights alliance, the arc-of-history-bends-towards-justice thinking has placed him in an arguably more Left-of-Center, human rights advocacy position than even Jimmy Carter had placed himself.

It might be worth revisiting his Cairo Speech, as it’s clear Obama has a kind of global, universalist vision for the world and America’s role in it.  Call him secularly universal, anti-imperial, non-nationalist, but it’s clearly a vision of process and democracy promotion.  ‘Violent extremists’ is a curiously vague idea.

I certainly wouldn’t be surprised if Obama, like Carter before him, is not only on the human-rights circuit at some point in the future, but may still be pushing his Organizing For Action in some capacity here at home:  A permanent civil-rights protest political machine with a particularly racial focus, perhaps aiming to unite the Left-Of-Center 60’s idealist coalitions under some vision of liberal managerialism.

Here’s a quote from Anne-Marie Slaughter, on liberal internationalism:

‘The central liberal internationalist premise is the value of a rules-based international order that restrains powerful states and thereby reassures their enemies and allies alike and allows weaker states to have sufficient voice in the system that they will not choose to exit’

Of course, a similarly human-rights focused policy didn’t turn out so well for U.S. in Iran, and here we are a few decades leader trying to strategize and stay ahead of the tide of Islamism and many other forces in the region.

As to foreign-policy, maybe we could return to some kind of realism, but that will take serious work, as the Republican party is quite split at the moment between pro-military nationalists, neo-cons, realists, the religious, pro-Israel right, all the way to the anti-Statist libertarian isolationists, with anti-war types among them.

Meanwhile, many decisions being made inside Egypt will likely affect our policy towards the region for generations to come.

What should we be doing, and why?  What can we do?  What’s already being done?

Related On This SiteNancy Okail At Freedom House: “‘Muslim Rage’ and the Politics of Distraction in Egypt’From Al Jazeera English: ‘Morsi Wins Egypt’s Presidential Election’Adam Garfinkle At The American Interest on Egypt: ‘Still More of the Same—and Something New’…are we still on a liberalizing, Westernizing trajectory?, however slow the pace? Adam Garfinkle At The American Interest: ‘What Did The Arab Spring Really Change?’

Michael Totten Interviews Eric Trager: ‘The Truth About Egypt’

Michael Totten Interviews Eric Trager: ‘The Truth About Egypt’

Full post here.

The United States has done a very poor job managing perceptions in Egypt. The administration assumed if it wasn’t critical about Morsi’s behavior domestically, they’d win his cooperation on foreign policy. The problem is that Morsi was only willing to cooperate with us on foreign policy in the short run. The Muslim Brotherhood wants to consolidate power in Egypt and then create a global Islamic state. It’s a key part of their ideology and their rhetoric. They talk about it with me. They can’t be our partners.

Worse, by not speaking up and criticizing Morsi as he tried to create unchecked power for himself, it created the impression that the United States wanted to replace Mubarak with the Muslim Brotherhood. That’s extremely damaging in a place like Egypt with such tumultuous politics’

We didn’t support the Brotherhood. We failed to speak up and manage perceptions. In the future, the only way to address this problem will be to make sure we don’t put all our eggs in one basket. We have to spread our risk by making sure we engage everybody.’

What kind of chance does the idea of democracy and democratic process have in Egypt given the endemic poverty, the oppression, and the lack of readiness in most of the people for it?

Placed against the backdrop of a longer-term Islamist resurgence in the Middle-East, pushing against Arab nationalism, and the answer is not too much.

Such a vision of ideal and pure one voice, one vote democracy in the most stable of countries can become a vehicle for majoritarian rule, leading to a quid pro quo politics of corruption, patronage, and vote-buying.

In Egypt, the democratic process was merely a stalking horse for the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood, and now the military has cracked back down hard on the Brotherhood, and it’s getting bloodier.

Related On This SiteNancy Okail At Freedom House: “‘Muslim Rage’ and the Politics of Distraction in Egypt’From Al Jazeera English: ‘Morsi Wins Egypt’s Presidential Election’Adam Garfinkle At The American Interest on Egypt: ‘Still More of the Same—and Something New’…are we still on a liberalizing, Westernizing trajectory?, however slow the pace? Adam Garfinkle At The American Interest: ‘What Did The Arab Spring Really Change?’

Michael Totten At World Affairs: ‘Egypt Falls Back On The Military’

Full post here.

Comments are worth a read.  The Army and President bluffing?

Stranger things have happened, but we are looking at country with grinding, nearly 3rd world poverty, in an economic spiral downwards.

Totten’s interview with a Muslim Brotherhood representative shows their rather nutty worldview and impracticality in the wake of Mubarak (not really people we can do business with), and any hope of stability is now being placed back upon the foreign-aid supported military.

The State Department and the Obama administration are still trying to convince the American people democracy has been brought to the Middle-East and be seen as having done so.  True, these were ‘democractic’ elections, but the conditions for any kind of democracy or liberalism the West would recognize were never ripe for the serious business of a power vacuum and the failure of Egypt’s institutions and conditions on the ground.

Spengler At PJ Media: Egypt Falls Back On The Military:

‘There is only {one} reason the military might do a better job than the Muslim Brotherhood or the liberal opposition, and that is because Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states (besides tiny Qatar) might decide to provide funding for a military regime that suppressed the Muslim Brotherhood, which the Saudi regime rightly fears as a competitor to its medieval form of monarchy’

Adam Garfinkle’s Adbel Fattah al-Sisi-Memorize That Name:

‘This drama has never been about the fate of democracy or liberal attitudes and institutions. That was our passion play, not Egypt’s. This drama has always been about the fractionation and dissipation of traditional sources of social authority in a country that has tried and failed now at least three times since Napoleon’s 1799 invasion to come to terms with the press of modernity – ‘

Related On This SiteNancy Okail At Freedom House: “‘Muslim Rage’ and the Politics of Distraction in Egypt’From Al Jazeera English: ‘Morsi Wins Egypt’s Presidential Election’Adam Garfinkle At The American Interest on Egypt: ‘Still More of the Same—and Something New’…are we still on a liberalizing, Westernizing trajectory?, however slow the pace? Adam Garfinkle At The American Interest: ‘What Did The Arab Spring Really Change?’

Michael Totten At World Affairs: ‘Morsi In His Own Words’

Full post here.

Discouraging, but unsurprising, quotes from two years ago at the link:

‘He’s a Muslim Brotherhood man, and this aggressively bigoted and warmongering attitude is de rigueur for that crowd.’

Morsi was probably deploying some political rhetoric as he is a politician, but there’s a lot to be worried about.

Our current administration understandably sat on the fence regarding whether or not to continue supporting Mubarrak and his regime.  There was a larger movement afoot in the Middle East and it was roiling Egypt as well.   Stability is always an attractive option for us, especially regarding Israel, and the Suez Canal.  It’s arguably worth many of billions of dollars.

But change did come, Mubarrak fell, and the deep poverty, the oppressed Brotherhood members and other Islamists, the smaller groups of liberals and the more Western-influenced and well-educated, the many reformers denied access to politics; all of them suddenly faced a vacuum.  The immediate prospect was the SCAF filling that vacuum and carrying on as before, installing another leader in Mubarrak’s wake.

There has since been a power struggle for control of the deep state and typically, the longer a power vacuum exists, the worse people there are to fill it.  Egyptians came and went from Tahrir Square, tensions rose and fell.  We took a hands-off approach, and tried to encourage an orderly process with free and fair elections, all based upon an ideal of democracy that is presumed to be universal.

Nevertheless, we are running into the realities of the Middle-East.

As I see it, the Muslim Brotherhood is better viewed as a member of a broader Islamic resurgence throughout the Levant.  They are the most stable front of this resurgence, but there is a revolutionary and ideological quality to their thinking akin to the patchwork of similar interests and neighbors who are generally anti-Western, anti-Israel, and pro-Islam.  Following the money, the guns, and the political power isn’t a bad rule of thumb to figure out what the future may hold.

As for Morsi, his political coalition is made up of Salafists and other Islamists in Egypt, and they’re taking over the old, corrupt and oppressive bureaucracy and controlling the public square with a rather narrow Constitution.

Islam has prescriptions not just for the religious and personal spheres, but for politics and the public square as well. Many Westerners can call Al-Qaeda the violent edge of a radical, impossibly purist, interpretation of Islam, trying to lay the blanket of Western humanism, idealism and multiculturalism over the Muslim world in order to blunt this sharp edge, but it will only cover so much.   Many Westerners can blame the West first for its colonial adventures, oil and money interests, trade and education interests, but that’s not tenable for the long-haul either.  Obama is continuing most of our government’s bureaucratic aims set up in the wake of 9/11: using our military, security agencies, special-ops, and drone-strikes in order to hunt out those who would do us harm.

The broader humanist approach sold as neoconservatism lite or a move away from “empire-building” should be held to some account, no matter the practicality of its realpolitik.

Where do we go from here?

My two cents.

Related On This Site:  From Al Jazeera: ‘Egypt Cracks Down On Satirists And Media’

Nancy Okail At Freedom House: “‘Muslim Rage’ and the Politics of Distraction in Egypt’From Al Jazeera English: ‘Morsi Wins Egypt’s Presidential Election’Adam Garfinkle At The American Interest on Egypt: ‘Still More of the Same—and Something New’…are we still on a liberalizing, Westernizing trajectory?, however slow the pace? Adam Garfinkle At The American Interest: ‘What Did The Arab Spring Really Change?’

From Foreign Policy: ‘Egypt: The President’s Six Hands’

Full piece here.

What’s going on in Egypt?

‘The political disagreement, between the protesters and the government, has been compounded by another: between the opposition protesters and the Muslim Brotherhood foot soldiers. For the latter, though, the conflict isn’t political — it’s religious and moral.’

There is extreme poverty in Egypt, as well as an entrenched, corrupt bureaucracy and the oppression it laid for generations upon citizens and opposition groups. The Brotherhood’s ties throughout the region and their sudden responsibilities and many of their positions are aligning with the larger Islamist movement in the Arab world.  It’s not exactly spring.

Related On This SiteNancy Okail At Freedom House: “‘Muslim Rage’ and the Politics of Distraction in Egypt’From Al Jazeera English: ‘Morsi Wins Egypt’s Presidential Election’Adam Garfinkle At The American Interest on Egypt: ‘Still More of the Same—and Something New’…are we still on a liberalizing, Westernizing trajectory?, however slow the pace? Adam Garfinkle At The American Interest: ‘What Did The Arab Spring Really Change?’

Michael Totten At The World Affairs Journal: ‘The Most Overrated Intellectual in the World’

Full piece here.

Ramadan know how to play the Western end of the debate:

‘According to Ramadan, writes Ahmari, “the American government and ‘powerful American corporations’ nurtured the young activists who triggered the Arab Spring as a way of ‘opening up Arab markets and integrating the region into the global economy.’”

and Totten finishes with:

‘There are plenty of liberal and moderate intellectuals in the Arab world. Real ones. Smart one. Brilliant ones. I’ve interviewed lots of them. Some of them are my friends. Many of them have been bullied and menaced and even murdered by the enthusiastic followers of Tariq Ramadan’s grandfather.

I don’t know if Ramadan’s newest book and his job as an Iranian government tool will finally define him as a committed non-liberal in the eyes of the Western world’s liberals, but it’s bound to happen eventually.’

This is coming at a time when the current American administration has committed itself to about the farthest Left foreign policy platform in living memory (maybe beyond Brzezinski’s Carter admin).

Many Americans want this to be our approach as well, as it’s “working” in Europe.  Here’s Ramadan debating Hitchens:

————–

Via Reuters, Turkey is stepping up military action in Syria, partly to tamp down the Kurds and keep its own population in control, partly to protect itself from the chaos and perhaps gain advantage.

Related On This Site:  Repost-From Beautiful Horizons: ‘Christopher Hitchens and Tariq Ramadan at the 92nd Street Y’

There are American traditions which do not seek a holy war, but naturally seek to oppose enemies, defend our citizens, and expand our reach without secular multiculturalism:  Richard Fernandez At PJ Media: ‘The New Middle East’..Daniel Greenfield definitely thinks Islam is the problem: From Sultan Knish: ‘The Mirage Of Moderate Islam’

A British Muslim tells his story, suggesting that classical liberalism wouldn’t be a bad idea…as a more entrenched radical British Left and Muslim immigration don’t mix too well: From Kenanmalik.com: ‘Introduction: How Salman Rushdie Changed My Life’… Via YouTube: ‘Christopher Hitchens Vs. Ahmed Younis On CNN (2005)’

From Michael Totten At World Affairs: “Noam Chomsky: The Last Totalitarian”

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From The Daily Mail: “Muslim Brotherhood Has ‘Started Crucifying Opponents Of New President’, Claims Website”

Full piece here.

The Daily Mail is picking up on reports out of Egypt.  Hopefully, it’s not that bad.

The Mubarak regime and then the SCAF after Mubarak’s fall were the only entities acting like a lid upon most Egyptians beneath the regime: a majority who live in grinding poverty, who were accustomed to deep bureaucratic corruption and oppression while forced to rely on that bureaucracy and regime for order, and who have little to no institutions otherwise.  The habits and institutions of rule by the people, which we in the West are generally familiar, are not there for many reasons.

The business and educated class had many foreign ties, and it’s safe to say that they were and are a smaller minority in Egypt. Many, too, had to get in good enough with Mubarak or the regime if they were high-profile enough to survive.  After Morsi won the election, it was a struggle between the remnants of the old regime and the SCAF, and Morsi’s Brotherhood-led coalition.

Now, it’s looking pretty grim if the reports are true.

—————-

From Nancy Okail’s guest post at Adam Garfinkle’s blog:

‘However, the more serious problem is that over the past 18 months the decrees issued by the SCAF, and later by Morsi, have not been founded on legal or constitutional grounds; rather, they indicate that the transitional path has been merely the continuation of haphazard, interest-based populist decisions. With the continued absence of rule of law and the gravity of the problems that Egyptians face, it is far from certain that things will remain calm. There are no guarantees that the civil divorce will remain civil’

Indeed.

—————–

Addition:  From Foreign Affairs:

‘It thus stands to reason that Morsi’s sacking of Egypt’s top national security and defense officials might in part represent a shift in Egyptian foreign policy away from the United States. Toward what country, however, remains unclear. There is no other power that could be Egypt’s patron, yet Cairo might not need one.’

This could make U.S. Foreign Policy much more difficult, and hopefully not as antagonistic as Iran after the Revolution.

Related On This Site:  From Al Jazeera English: ‘Morsi Wins Egypt’s Presidential Election’Adam Garfinkle At The American Interest on Egypt: ‘Still More of the Same—and Something New’…are we still on a liberalizing, Westernizing trajectory?, however slow the pace? Adam Garfinkle At The American Interest: ‘What Did The Arab Spring Really Change?’

From The NY Times: ‘In Upheaval For Egypt, Morsi Forces Out Military Chiefs ‘

Full piece here.

‘President Mohamed Morsi of Egypt forced the retirement on Sunday of his powerful defense minister, the army chief of staff and several senior generals, in a stunning purge that seemed for the moment to reclaim for civilian leaders much of the political power the Egyptian military had seized since the fall of Hosni Mubarak last year.’

Not exactly a cozy power-sharing arrangement, as predicted.  I still suspect American diplomacy will become much more difficult regarding Israel, the Suez Canal, and other interests in the region.  This likely isn’t as bad as the Iranian revolution (look at the current Iranian regime and its tactics), but the Egyptian trajectory is likely to align more with the Islamic resurgence throughout the Middle-East with a Brotherhood-led Parliament.  Who will control the deep-State?

Related On This Site:  From Al Jazeera English: ‘Morsi Wins Egypt’s Presidential Election’Adam Garfinkle At The American Interest on Egypt: ‘Still More of the Same—and Something New’…are we still on a liberalizing, Westernizing trajectory?, however slow the pace? Adam Garfinkle At The American Interest: ‘What Did The Arab Spring Really Change?’

From Al Jazeera English: ‘Morsi Wins Egypt’s Presidential Election’

Full piece here.

The election is called, 51.7% in favor of Mohammed Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood candidate over Ahmed Shafik, a former Mubarak general with 48.3%.   How much power the office of the president will have, and how much the Army allows it to have will be hashed out in the coming months and years, with a lot of tension and mistrust.  It remains to be seen how flexible either side will be.

In Egypt, there is grinding poverty, and many people have lived under an Army controlled State bureaucracy, with entrenched interests dependent on foreign aid and running high levels of corruption, for generations.   The Mubarak regime ran this bureaucracy often brutally (especially in its prisons), and mostly succeeded in preventing the formation of  many competing interests and forms of political organization.  It is still strongly entrenched.

The Muslim Brotherhood is the next best well-organized entity in Egypt, and its connections are deep across the region.  The Brotherhood is increasingly capable of playing a longer game, and some of those connections should be worrying to Western interests, especially regarding the Israelis, the Suez canal, and where Brotherhood leaders can reasonably be expected to be in front of their people, especially given the sticking point of Palestine.  It should be noted however, that by accounts, they have fairly won the election.

——————————

Here’s a quote from Henry Kissinger during the Cold War years. (I should point out that his analysis is aimed more specifically, but not exclusively, at Communist revolutions, emerging from Marxist/Communist doctrine and their assumed certainty of historical and dialectical progress.  It assumes the ideological revolutionaries are the ones creating the bureaucratic structures.  In Egypt at the moment, the bureaucracy may be seen by some as an enemy rather than a prize):

‘But once a revolution becomes institutionalized, the administrative structures which it has spawned develop their own vested interests.  Ideology may grown less significant in creating commitment; it becomes pervasive in supplying criteria of administrative choice.  Ideologies prevail by being taken for granted.’

One likely U.S. response is to maintain aid to Egypt, in order to maintain stability of the bureaucratic structure and encourage as gradual a transition with as little true revolution as possible if it is to be the Brotherhood gaining increasing control, while watching events closely.

There are other interests in Egypt, of course, a smaller, educated, wealthier class that drove much of the change, but they will not necessarily have the ideological unity, political support nor organization capable of meeting many of the people and energies that have been unleashed (nor perhaps, before they were unleashed).  A Western-style, Western hoped-for democratic revolution was not/is not likely given the conditions on the ground in Egypt.  In the next U.S. elections, there is possibility of a backlash against a more liberal internationalist foreign policy doctrine.

*Kissinger, Henry. American Foreign Policy:  Three Essays.  New York: W.W. Norton & Company Inc.  1969.

Addition:  Walter Russell Mead says the Army and the establishment have nearly total control over the process.

Michael Totten pretty much agrees.

Related On This Site:  Adam Garfinkle At The American Interest on Egypt: ‘Still More of the Same—and Something New’

From Abu Muqawama: ‘Mubarak And Me’From Michael Totten: ‘The New Egyptian Underground’Michael Totten At The American Interest: “A Leaner, Meaner Brotherhood”

Francis Fukuyama At The American Interest Online: ‘Political Order in Egypt’

Walter Russell Mead At The American Interest: ‘Mubaraks, Mamelukes, Modernizers and Muslims’……James Kirchik At The American Interest: ‘Egyptian Liberals Against the Revolution’

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From Foreign Policy: ‘No Brothers In Arms In Egypt’

Full piece here.

A more tense relationship has developed between the Muslim Brotherhood and the Supreme Council Of The Armed Forces, which is essentially running the country.

As Murad Mohamed Aly, a Morsi campaign official, told me, “The Egyptians did not revolt to get rid of Mubarak … to get another Mubarak — Shafiq or someone.” And this same logic could apply to Amr Moussa, Mubarak’s former foreign minister who currently leads most national polls. “We have strong doubts that Egyptians will elect someone who is connected to the previous regime,” said Aly. “If [Moussa is elected] through interference, we will protest.”

A previous quote from Walter Russell Mead:

What we are seeing in the streets of Cairo is less a revolution seeking to take shape than a haggling process.  The leaders of the Egyptian political parties want to be able to choose all the parliamentary candidates through naming them to parliamentary lists.  That would make party leaders the chief power brokers in a parliamentary regime.  The military wants more MPs to be elected as individuals, weakening the parties and making it easier for the real powers in the country to manipulate the parliamentary process.’

Related On This SiteWalter Russell Mead At The American Interest: ‘Mubaraks, Mamelukes, Modernizers and Muslims’……James Kirchik At The American Interest: ‘Egyptian Liberals Against the Revolution’

From Abu Muqawama: ‘Mubarak And Me’From Michael Totten: ‘The New Egyptian Underground’Michael Totten At The American Interest: “A Leaner, Meaner Brotherhood”

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